We all know that routine vehicle maintenance, including oil changes, is crucial to keeping our cars running reliably and in as fuel-efficient a manner as possible.  Using the best products for our vehicles and driving styles is important, but it can be hard to know which oil to choose, especially when there seem to be more brands available than ever before.  Here are a few tips to help you choose the right oil for you.

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First and foremost, check your owner’s manual for any manufacturer guidelines on oil choices, including any instructions on what not to use.  The first two things to look for when buying motor oil are certifications that the product meets the current standards of the American Petroleum Institute (API).  One of their certifications is indicated by a starburst symbol on the package; the other is the designation of “SL,” which refers to the oil’s ability to pass the latest engine and lab tests.

Choosing the right viscosity is your next task.  Essentially, the viscosity rating tells you how much your oil will thicken under cold conditions (like being parked overnight during the winter) and how thin it will get under hot conditions (like when it’s running).  You want oil that will stay thick enough to maintain the best seal and film of lubrication but thin enough to move freely.  You’re probably familiar with oil weights being listed as 10W-30 or 5W-20 or maybe just SAE 30 (among other weights), but what do those numbers mean?  The “W” stands for winter.  The number before the W represents the oil’s viscosity at low temperatures; the second number indicates viscosity at higher (normal running) temps.  If your winters are extremely cold, you’ll want to opt for a 5W or maybe a 10W, as these oils will stay thinner in extreme cold, which leads to quicker starts since the oil doesn’t have to warm up and thin out first.  A higher second number is good because it means the oil will resist thinning too much at higher temps.  A motor oil with “SAE” followed by a single number means it hasn’t been rated for use in winter conditions.

The other thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want a conventional, synthetic or synthetic blend.  Conventional oil is derived directly from crude oil and is the kind of motor oil that’s been around the longest.  Synthetic oil starts as conventional oil, but is modified to improve its lubricating and protective properties.  Synthetic blends, not surprisingly, are a mix of the two.  Synthetics are much more expensive than conventionals or blends and are designed for high-tech, high-performance engines.  Typically, the added expense is completely unnecessary for most drivers.  Synthetic blends have been formulated to better handle higher workloads and temperatures.  They don’t cost much more than conventionals but do offer a bit of extra protection for drivers facing tougher conditions and drivers of higher workload trucks and SUVs.  Today, there are even motor oils designed for vehicles with higher mileage, which can help older vehicles last even longer.

Understanding what motor oil is best for your car can help you feel more confident about your choice, whether you’re doing it yourself or just want to be sure the mechanic isn’t trying to oversell you the next time you bring your vehicle in for an oil change.

Your vehicle’s fuel injectors turn your gasoline into a fine mist and spray that mist into your engine’s intake manifold.  The manifold then delivers the fuel to the engine for combustion.  In other words, the fuel injectors are pretty darn important, but many of us don’t think about, or don’t know how, to keep them clean and running optimally.  Today’s gasoline is much cleaner than it used to be, but sometimes there’s still miniscule debris that can clog fuel injectors.  Additionally, fuel and exhaust residue can also clog injectors and make them lose effectiveness.  When it comes to DIY cleaning of fuel injectors, you have two choices:  a cleaner that you simply pour into the gas tank, or a cleaning kit that’s more involved and allows you to clean the injectors directly.  The latter choice is definitely not for the totally mechanically disinclined, but is definitely doable for those not afraid to follow directions and get a little dirty.  If you opt to have your fuel injectors professionally cleaned, be prepared to spend up to $50 per injector.  While it’s still more common to see a single-point injection system whereby one injector feeds all cylinders or a system that employs one injector per two cylinders, there are multi-point injection systems that have an injector for each cylinder.

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If you’d prefer to stick with a “pour and go” type of injector cleaner, you’ll have quite a few choices.  Knowing what to look for could help you save money and definitely will help make the most of your purchase.

The first thing to do is make sure you select a cleaner that’s compatible with your vehicle.  There are several online tools that will allow you to input your vehicle’s make and model and give you a list of products that are safe for your engine.  If you have an older car and are cleaning the fuel injectors for the first time, you’ll probably want the strongest compatible cleaner you can get.  If you have a newer car or after you give your older fuel injectors a thorough cleaning and are looking for a maintenance product, you can get away with a less powerful solution.

The type of gas you use can affect your injector-cleaner decision, too, both in terms of type of solution and necessary frequency of use.  If you use a gasoline with detergents already in it, it would be redundant to use a cleaner that contains the same detergents.  You could opt for a different type of cleaner and a less powerful one.  You also can opt to clean your injectors every few thousand miles instead of with every fill up.  If you use a gasoline with no detergents and/or are rough on your vehicle (lots of miles and/or dusty conditions), you’ll want to go with a stronger cleaner and may want to add injector cleaner every time you fill up (assuming you don’t fill up until you’re nearly empty).

If you fancy yourself enough of a mechanic to tackle a more thorough cleaning of the actual injectors rather than just use a systemic cleaner, there are a number of kits available.  Taking the time to find the best one for you can mean the difference between getting the job done yourself or spending more money having a professional do that job and maybe even have to repair the resulting damage.  A good cleaning kit will be easy to use and include absolutely everything you need to do the job (in terms of consumables, anyway).  Most even contain some spare supplies you might need.  Make sure you know what tools the project will require, as some kits assume your garage is already well outfitted.  As long as you’re careful to follow instructions, you should have no problem doing this job yourself.

This site offers reviews, comparisons, and pros and cons of several brands of fuel injector cleaners that you simply add to a full tank of fuel.

Visit best fuel injector cleaning kits for a pros-and-cons list of the top complete kits that will allow you clean your injectors directly without having to take your vehicle to a pricey mechanic.